You can’t live here without having a favourite beach. I love The Pass. I love the way the shore is fringed by pandanus. The rock that we used to climb as a lookout that now has an official staircase and platform because too many dickheads were making the scramble. I love the sweep of the Bay, the ever-changing face of the beach pools, and of course, the crystal clear breaking water that gently deposits you about 200 metres down the beach if the waves are right.
There was a time when I would spend long days at The Pass, camped under the trees or an umbrella, enjoying that salty pleasure of swim and sun. Without sunscreen. I hate sunscreen. I figured I’m an 80s girl; I rode bikes without helmets, I crossed the road without looking, I lived in a house made from asbestos, I’ve had sex without condoms, I smoked cigarettes with abandon, so I might as well take a sneaky chance on skin cancer.
A day at The Pass had that amazing ability to renew me. I’d remember why I lived here. What was good in life. I’d feel that deep earthy happiness you get when you’re so blissed out you can’t think any more. The kids were small and so easy to love when they bobbed about in the surf, especially at that point where I could see but no longer hear them. All I could hear was the resonant echo of the waves hitting the land.
It was the only beach I went to. But I stopped going. Too many people. And far too many attractive people. On one visit I took a long, hard look at myself and thought, face it, old lady, you belong at Torakina. There I’m quite the specimen, but at The Pass, I’m Past it.
It wasn’t just the endless parade of beautiful bodies. It was the cars they came in. The big cars, with big surfboards. Everyone in the family seems to have a fricking surfboard. And you’re lucky if any one of them knows how to use it. But it won’t stop them having a crack and mowing you down in the process.
Then there was the traffic jam in the parking lot. The fights over whose blinker baggsed the one free spot first. The opportunistic Queenslander in the Range Rover who saw the ensuing standoff and whizzed in and stole the park in question, leaving you arguing with a tourist about a park that no longer existed. Where I once felt fuzzed out now I felt fury. So The Pass was taken off the favourite beach list and moved to the ‘beaches I can’t go to any more’ list… another wondrous local asset that we who live here once enjoyed but have had to surrender for the sake of our sanity.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have tourism. Or tourists. I’m just saying I don’t like them. They shit me. A lot. I wish they’d go to Evans Head. Or back to the Gold Coast. I wish they paid for this, and not us. I still haven’t got over the smarmy passive aggressive note from council that was included with our rate rise, asking us to check a box against our preferred options like option one increase of 7.5 per cent ‘continued deterioration of our assets’, option two at 10 per cent offering basic maintenance and, of course, the 12.5 per cent increase of option three offering some council fantasy they called ‘improvement all round’.
Where was option four: charge the tourists instead of residents? They’re the ones deteriorating our assets, not us. We can’t even bloody use our assets, we’re at home hiding under the beds we haven’t rented on Airbnb to cover the rate rise. We can’t get a park. We can’t get a wave. And if you live next to an illegal holiday letting in tourist time, you can’t get a good night’s sleep either.
Here’s my option four: No rate rise. But zero tolerance of illegal holiday letting and a state government sanctioned bed tax so that legal operators don’t start bitching that it’s unfair they have to pay. I’m thinking this on the long drive to Byron for our swim at The Pass. Today I insisted we take it on. ‘It’s my favourite beach. We pay rates for this shit.’
The trip from Mullum only took an hour. Better than expected. The cars trying to get into The Pass snaked up to Lighthouse Road. I already wanted to kill someone and I hadn’t even got wet yet. John gave up and dropped us at the beach and parked the car a few kilometres away near Captain Cook’s on an off-road. The Pass didn’t disappoint. She was as beautiful as ever. I wedged my family in the middle of hundreds of hot bodies enjoying another one of our deteriorating assets.
It was hard to stay resentful. Who could blame them about wanting to be here? The beach doesn’t care about tourism. It just does its thing. After a few hours we made the long trudge to our car, still fuzzed out from surf and sand. Until we found the car. That’s when we noticed that someone, and more specifically a someone with a Queensland number plate, had parked us in. Barely 2cm from our bumper. How considerate.
I thought about a few diplomatic options and then I rammed them with our tow bar and drove off. But I did leave a note. I gave them some options: Option A: You can keep coming here and degrading our sense of community, our infrastructure, and be hated by locals, but pay nothing, or B: You can keep coming here, but not as many of you, and pay to maintain our assets so our community can afford to live here and in the end you’ll have a much better experience, or my preferred option, C: You Can Fuck Off.
It’s really good to have options.